Friday, December 23, 2011


We're in the Black Hills for the holiday.  his means that, unfortunately, I won't get to train again until Tuesday.  This is sad.  I even tried to get in touch with a few academies in town, but none of them are going to be training while I'm in town.  In case that changes, the gi, rashguard, and belt are all in the trunk.

I told Brenna earlier this week that she has no idea how much of my thinking time is spent on jiu jitsu.  On the way through South Dakota, we were listening to Radiolab, my new podcast addiction.  We were listening to the episode on Words.  (Here is the link; if you haven't listened to Radiolab, it's probably the smartest thing on the radio right now.)  In this episode, they were discussing the idea of whether language is what allows children to think better than rodents, and later, whether language prevents us from feeling as much emotion as possible.  [Rereading that sentence, it's terribly written and only kind of explains what I want it to, but we'll see if I can make it better.]  One of the stories focused on a woman who was having a stroke, and she wrote a book about the experience.  The left side of her brain was shutting down, and she lost all language.  In those moments, when only the right side of her brain was operating, she said it was indescribable (not the least because she didn't have language) and allowed her to feel in ways that the logic and design of language prevent.

There was another bit about neural connections, and how evolutionarily advanced it is to be able to form the thought "left of the blue wall."  Both rodents and humans have the capacity to define the noun and adjectives in that phrase ("wall," "left," and "blue"), but for some reason, rodents are unable to build the connections necessary to define an item's location in relation to a differently colored wall.  [Again, bad explanation--listen to the radio show.]  So it's as though each of our brains has these islands that define colors and directions and objects, and language (prepositions, in this particular case) allows us to connect those separate islands to one another.

So we were driving the expanse of nothing that is Dakota Country and I started thinking about how my training has been going lately and the feedback that Klint has given me.  I know a lot of techniques.  I can talk about (and even reasonably teach) armbars, takedowns, triangles, kimuras, the Camarillo switch, chokes---when I write it down or try to explain it, I realize that it's a lot more technique than I expected.  I have these islands of technique, and a few bridges between them that I constantly use.  (And this is where the two parts of the episode combined to fuel my thoughts.)  But I'm scared to turn off my left brain when rolling to see whether any other bridges exist for me to use.  Occasionally it happens---I'll do something that's really good and that I didn't expect, but I don't remember what I did so I can't replicate it or even explain it.  But that is what my jiu jitsu needs right now:  less left brain.  In jiu jitsu parlance, I have to flow with the go a bit more.  Stop thinking about it and just roll with the roll.

It's hard.  I have a rather overbearing brain--I want to understand everything that I'm doing, and shooting from the hip in these situations, especially when I'm up against Klint, means that I'm going to have to lose a lot and that I won't enjoy the time I spend training.  Which is simply a fact of life.  And I should get used to it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Why Not To Be Upset With My Progress

This conversation has happened a handful of times in the last three months:

Them:  You have really good movement.
Me:  Thanks, I appreciate that.
Them:  How long have you been doing jiu jitsu?
Me:  It will be two years this coming February.  So around 20/22 months.
Them:  .....That can't be right.  You're much better than that.  Did you wrestle?
Me:  For a year in eighth grade.  So kind of, but really no.
Them:  That's not fair.

I wish I could take credit for it all on my own.  I can't, and I refuse to.  For starters, I still think I'm not all that good.  I have a few tricks, and one or two standard attacks and set-ups that I always look for.  But I'm not a monster on the mat by any stretch.  Also, my progress is almost entirely due to Klint's instruction.  He's a technical madman.  Every lesson takes the minutiae of each technique, explains why it's important to the particular combination we're working that day, and at the end, goes from the six-inch view to the thirty-thousand-foot view.  From explaining why the elbow control helps more than wrist control for this one set-up to why we should attack constantly and how that affects not only our game, but our opponent's defenses and concentration.

And it all shows in my training.  So that's nice.  And though I'm frustrated and feel stagnant, it seems that I am the only one who thinks that about my game.

I imagine this is something that everyone has to go through during their training.  At least, everyone who isn't BJ Penn (or some other equally ridiculously prodigious grappler) and has to suffer through life with regular concerns like a job and familial obligations.  We're not learning knitting or how to make a collage.  We're fighting.  It's hard, and sometimes it sucks.  But you're not always the best judge of your own progress.  That's something worth remembering.